Senate bill would redefine consent in sexual assault cases

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Montana’s current sexual assault statutes have not been significantly revised since the 1970s, following the constitutional convention.

As they stand today, “No means no is not the law,” said Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jennifer Clark said Friday.

Clark testified at the Montana Legislature in favor of Senate Bill 29, which would redefine consent in sexual assault cases, removing the need for victims to prove they were “compelled to submit by force.”

One of the bill’s supporters is Christina Powell, co-director of The Help Center in Bozeman and founder of the Sexual Assault Counseling Center. Powell says it’s time for state law to better reflect current understanding.

“I think that sexual assault is a deeply misunderstood — was –– a deeply misunderstood topic, and it’s only within the last 10 years that we’ve really gotten a handle on it,” Powell said.

The bill was one of seven bills that came from the Law and Justice Interim Committee dealing with various aspects of sexual assault.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.